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Keeping the "US" in the USAF through being a Wingman

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Steve Poiani
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent
We've all heard and recited the line "I will never leave an Airman behind" from our Airman's Creed on countless occasions since its creation in 2007, but how many of us know what the line signifies and do we actually live by these words? The message seems simple and directly applies to every one of us at Fairchild, to all the members of the United States Air Force.

We as members of our great team must do everything in our power to ensure the success of our mission and that all of our Airmen return home safely no matter what. But what can we do to protect our fellow Airmen? 

An obvious answer comes to mind -- be the Wingman. According to the legendary WWII Air Force pioneer, Col. Francis "Gabby" Gabreskia "The wingman is absolutely indispensable. I look after the wingman. The wingman looks after me. It's another set of eyes protecting you." What does it take to be a faithful Wingman and who does it apply to? If you see someone on the verge of making a poor decision--speak up. I had a commander a few years back who once stated that what we really needed to protect our team was a "Designated Thinker." The more I thought about it, the more I understood how this could be a game changer. The best person to be the designated thinker is you, the one who notices what is happening. You have the choice to be faithful wingmen. Simple, everyday choices can seem insignificant at that moment but will have substantial impact on our mission and perceptions of ourselves. How many times has someone watched a person make a poor decision, knowing that the individual could be harmed or harm others and you just stood silent? Unfortunately, silence is the easy way to avoid confrontation. I find it amazing that on the day after an alcohol related incident or grievous accident, at least three to seven Airmen speak up about seeing the person and how they "knew something was going to happen," Yet they just stood by and let their Wingman's choice evolve into a crisis. It was just easier to remain silent but we must live with the regret of our own inaction. 

     Our Air Force expects us to live in a culture of responsible, reasonable choices. Every Airman is challenged with choices on and off duty that impact our mission and outsider's views of our Air Force. Be the faithful Wingman to every person who took our oath no matter their race, religion, or orientation. Every Airman can choose to live up to Gabreskia's expectations when he said, "personal battles are not won by individuals; they are won by the reinforcement of good wingmen." Will you make the tough decision and speak up when you see another Airman about to make the weak choice? Thanks for joining our team and I am expecting you to be the Wingman who makes a difference. Help me keep the "US" in USAF.